ESPN Winter X-Games 11 Go Tapeless with EVS, Bexel

Last month
marked the eleventh edition of the Winter X Games, ESPN’s premier action sport
series held this year in


. For the first time, the entire
program production workflow was tapeless, as ESPN utilized EVS IP Directors
furnished by Bexel Broadcast Services for live event coverage, their on-site


show, and ESPN New Media Group’s
web-based content delivered to the ESPN 360 site.

Previously, ESPN had
utilized a traditional tape-based workflow: recording line feeds and dubbing
highlights of each event, relaying them back to the broadcast center, and
hand-carrying tapes to the edit suite. This manual process required their
editors to wait until each event concluded and then spend valuable time
locating content from among a stack of tapes.

Beginning late last year,
Bexel, ESPN and EVS began exploring how they could transition this year’s event
to a tapeless workflow. Recording camera and program ISO’s to tape, logging
each feed, and managing tapes across fifteen venues was a difficult task that
ESPN’s Operations and Technical Management teams had mastered over years of
producing the X Games. They understood that upgrading this process meant
leveraging digital assets at their existing point of origination – the venue
acquisition already taking place on EVS disk recorders.

By utilizing their
experience with EVS’ already proven tapeless workflow technology, a Bexel team
headed by lead engineer Greg Blanton devised an integrated system for ESPN that
met this project’s complex challenges. Several potential obstacles were
identified during weeks of testing prior to the event, but EVS’ timely delivery
of advice and custom solutions ensured a successful outcome.

Eleven EVS XT disk
recorders, located in three NEP venue production trucks (ND-2, SS-12 and
SS-16), comprised a 60-channel server network. Two EVS IP Director logging
stations created searchable logs and content metadata that both the venue and
broadcast centers could access and use, and two additional IP Directors allowed
direct searching and access to venue content. Three EVS XFile archive devices
transferred the logged content to ESPN’s broadcast center operation and
returned finished feature packages back to the venue trucks for live

Eleven additional disk
recorders, XT[2] models in this case, were onboard NEP’s top-flight SS-25
truck, which also serves ESPN Monday Night Football. These were utilized to
create a 46-channel broadcast center production server. Fourteen IP Directors
enabled producers to search the venue logs, clips and individual event program
ISO’s, as well as manage melts, Avid ingest, linear editing, media conversion
and associated duties. Two XFiles managed content from the 9.2 Terabyte storage
array, and EVS’ MediaXChange handled EVS-to-AVI format conversions. Two EVS SQL
servers provided database management and constant backup throughout the event.

This server-based,
tapeless workflow provided instant access to a manageable set of digital assets
for every X Games production group. And nearly everyone benefited as a result.

Producers didn’t have to
spend hours searching through tapes for “that one great shot” anymore,
because they had immediate access to the entire array of camera angles.

Editors didn’t have to
wait hours for “the tapes” to arrive anymore, because they had
immediate access to the footage needed to finish their feature packages.

Broadcast and


production crews didn’t have to
record their own feeds for air anymore, because all venue content was
immediately available for their respective shows on demand.

ESPN 360 subscribers were
able to view X Game features online even sooner, because all content was
immediately available for fast formatting and delivery over the internet.

And even ESPN’s
accountants were pleased, because the cost of tape stock was almost entirely

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